Photography Boot Camp – Class Day

Posted in On Tthe Road, Photography Boot Camp, Photography Tricks on March 18th, 2011 by MadDog
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For the last few days I’ve been passing on a bit of knowledge about photography to five women who were eager students. It’s been fun. We’ve covered some of the basics. We started off with The Exposure Triangle, some basic relationships which every photographer who is serious about images needs to know.

Some interesting questions were posed. How do I get the bird on the fence to be in focus while the background is blurred? How do I do macro photography? It’s amazing how many of these mysteries can be cleared up in a few hours of study and practice.

Since I’m leaving tomorrow morning, today was graduation day. I asked each of my friends to give me two images which they like to put here on MPBM. I’ll show them in alphabetical order. They are all interesting images and all illustrate that the material was well learned.

Here is Ali’s “Reflection”:Ali’s images lean toward the abstract, something which I like.

In “Impression” Ali shows that she has the basics of macro photography figured out:She’s currently hampered by a camera which has limited manual controls and tries to figure out everything for her.

This image, Jann’s “Banksia”, is nicely composed and very pleasing:She did a good job of capturing the sky reflected in the water.

And Jann has certainly learned to do macro:There is the slightest hint of motion blur in the enlarged image. Jann knows that a faster shutter speed would have fixed this. The composition here is good, also. Nice use of negative space and the subject is off-centre enough to add interest. The image has a voice. The ant is asking, “Where to now?”

I like the composition here in Martina’s “Man and Nature”:It’s a clever image.

Martina has also learned her lessons well in the area of depth of field:She now knows how to make the foreground of the image sharp while blurring the distant objects.

Most cameras will not expose this scene correctly. The clouds will be blocked to white and have little detail. In “On the Beach” Narelle has demonstrated that she can whip her camera into doing her will:Good on ya’, Narelle.

Here in “Teewah” Narelle again demonstrates correct exposure:All of the students learned more than I had hoped. What started as a lark ended up being more work than I had anticipated. My abilities to pass on my knowledge improve each time I work with students. I’ve pretty much learned what they will ask and have already figured out easy to understand explanations.

Val has long been a deft hand with macro. She’s captured many fine images of the tiny stuff. Here in “Magic Mushrooms” she shows that she can handle difficult situations. The light level here was very low. It required some jiggling of controls to get the shot. Most casual photographers never figure this out:Of course, most don’t need to, because they are never much interested in standing on their heads in near dark to get an interesting shot.

Here in “Coloured Sands” Val demonstrates a very conventional shot well exposed and nicely framed:

Val is one of those people who can truthfully say, “I’ve been everywhere, man!” She’s traveled around the world and is off once again in a short while – this time to Nepal. I’m jealous.

I’m quite happy with the work and progress of these five friends. I find teaching fun and I’m pretty patient. I kept having to remind them that there are no stupid questions.

There are only stupid answers.

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Back to Gympie

Posted in Mixed Nuts on March 11th, 2011 by MadDog
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I may as well say it and get it over with. My last visits to Gympie were during the worst days of my life. Regular readers will know about that. I’m not here today to revisit the past. I’ve done enough of that over the last few months.

I will say that upon entering dear friend Val’s home for the first time since August was a bittersweet experience. I had been wondering how I would handle it. The first couple of hours were very strange and disturbing. What happened was pretty much what I expected. Certain places in the house evoked memories which hit me like a truck. I was determined to control these reactions, because I did not want to live with them for the next few weeks. After a while it dawned on me that the experience was both necessary and healing. I’m going to have to continue to deal with place-connected memories for years to come. Some of them will be very pleasant. Some will not.

While I’m blabbing on with the story I’ll show you some of the amazing flora in Val’s garden. This is a bright red something. I don’t know what it is, but it is certainly impressive:

It is ridiculous how little I know about plants. It doesn’t bother me. I depend on others to tell me what they are. I’m sure I’ll get comments with helpful information. That’s if anybody is still reading. (Val now tells me that it is Antherium . . . whatever . . .)

These struck me as very pleasing. The colour is intense and the white outline seems purposeful:

It looks as if the flowers are coming from the tree, but the blossoms are on a bush behind the tree.

This is an unlikely looking contraption. The white flower extending from the side looks out of place:

I had the usual problems on the trip down to Brisbane where Val picked me up. I broke my sunglasses. There were a few moments when I wasn’t sure my credit cards were working (YIKES! That is a heart-stopper.) As nothing fatal seemed lurking on the horizon, I began to relax a little. It seem that I’ve made it this far unscathed. I know it seems unreasonable to be so satisfied that I made this short part of my journey without mishap, but my confidence level hasn’t been all that great recently. Now I’ll give myself a very small pat on the back and think so far, so good.

Here is another strange one. It looks to me as if it is related to the one above:

On Monday we will be going to Teewah on the Sunshine Coast. I’ve never been there before. Friend Ali Raynor says that there are beach houses there. I’m looking forward to seeing the Australian coast again. The beaches seem to go on forever. The water will probably be much too cold for me. That’s okay. I spend enough time already submerged in brine. I’m partially pickled.

Another stunning something-or-other:

It seems to me that Australia has even stranger plant life than Papua New Guinea. Possibly that’s because I’m so used to seeing the same plants every day at home.

This small tree next to Val’s back door is covered with these beautiful flowers:I have a wireless USB dongle left over from my last trip to Australia. I decided to bring it along to see if I could plug it in to get on the web. I knew that it would not have any credit left on it, but I remember recharging it with my credit card. That was the source of my credit card fright. When I tried to recharge the prepaid plan the web page came back saying that my credit card was “not accepted”. Great! Here in Australia with no money. As it turned out, the company does not accept credit cards issued by US banks. It would be nice if they told travelers that before scaring them out of their wits. They said that I could use my card at their office in Brisbane, which is only a four hour round trip from Gympie. Very helpful, eh? We ended up using Val’s credit card.

I’ll finish up with this outlandish thing. I believe it is a bromeliad of some kind:

I looked in Google Images to see if I could find anything like it – no luck. It appears to have grass growing in the middle at first sight, but closer inspection reveals that it is some kind of spiky stuff. Val says that small flowers grow from it.

So, I am settling in for some relaxation and distraction. I’m going to use the time for attitude adjustment. I can use a lot of that.

Thanks to all who wished me bon voyage.

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Gympie Sunset

Posted in Mixed Nuts on September 17th, 2010 by MadDog
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I have been travelling for a couple of days and also fell into a black hole of no web access at my house, so this is the first time I’ve had a chance to post. A lot has happened. It’s time to catch up.

One thing that I was dreading was the memorial service at the Anglican Church in Gympie. I simply did not see how I could get through it. I’m now reminded that the human spirit is usually stronger than the particular human thinks it is. In other words, you can take a lot more than you think you can.

As it turns out, it was absolutely magnificent. I’d love to tell you the names of all who were in attendance, but I think that might be an invasion of privacy. I was frankly surprised at the number and variety of familiar faces I saw there. If any of the attendees are reading this, please accept again my heartfelt thanks for your efforts to be there to remember Eunie and prop me up.

Carol Dover sang Amazing Grace  is her lovely manner with a mid-southern accent and mountains of soul. Tears flowed like a river. The pastor said that he had never heard singing such as that in that place and I can believe it. It was fitting, comforting and magnificent. It was perfect.

Richard Jones delivered a eulogy which made me proud to know him and count him as a friend. Rich had been chosen as the man on the spot. After what he and Jenn had been through – all of us had been through – it was not an easy task nor one to take lightly. We had all read it when he was finished composing. We knew that the truly hard part would be getting through it. His brief pauses to compose himslef during the reading were both understandable and fitting.

As Val took me to a friend’s house to pick up the mail they had collected for her while we were all in Brisbane, I spied this wonderful sunset:

Throughout this ordeal for those who knew Eunie, so many people have been right where I needed them to be. It’s a testament to someone who radiated love and attracted it back to herself. Here is another shot of the sunset:Once again, the next day – signing a new will, going to the dentist – people were there. Nobody said, “Call me if there’s anything I can do.” and then turned away. They just started doing whatever they saw needed to be done. Somebody once told me a story about “The Guy Who Cleaned Shoes”. This fellow would show up at a house in his neighborhood where there was some sort of death-related gathering and ask people to remove their shoes and line them up in the hallway. Then he would get his shoeshine kit out and polish everyone’s shoes. This is the kind of action I’ve been getting.

Val’s lawyer would not let me pay for drawing up a new will with one day’s notice. Rich and Jenn went to the funeral home to pick up Eunie’s ashes for me, saving me the agony. Carol and Amanda sat quietly with me, holding me when I needed it. I want to mention more examples, but hesitate to open private spaces. If you are reading this, you know who you are. I love you for being there.

Here is a picture of Eunie at her desk – right where she belonged – taken not long after she was elected Director of the Pioneer Bible Translators Papua New Guinea Branch:

It may be a couple of days until I am able to post again. I have no web access at my house – something is broken in my wireless link – and I’m dealing with some emotional issues, as you can imagine.

I’ll be back.

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The Mary Valley Heritage Railway

Posted in On Tthe Road on September 13th, 2010 by MadDog
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A Major Distraction:

Now, five days since my dear wife Eunie crossed her final bridge, life is grinding on with a bizarre surrealism that I did not think possible. In fact, none of this is thinkable. Some of you out there will know exactly what I am talking about. The rest will find out soon enough.

Fortunately, my friends, really my propper-uppers, recognise my need for distraction and have continued to drag me out for “walks” and provide me with videos in the evening and valiantly attempted to keep me from brooding at the computer or, worse yet, sitting with the thousand yard stare in my eyes. Meanwhile, I’m putting on as brave a face as I can manage for their sakes and mine too, if the truth be known.

Sunday’s major distraction was the Mary Valley Historic Railway, which under happier circumstances I would have enjoyed more. Here is one of the locomotives and its tender on the turntable at the end of the line:

It is quite a contraption. The whole shebang spins around slowly until it is going back the way it came. Then the locomotive hooks up to the what was the back of the train and pulls it back to Gympie.

I’ll intersperse the misery with the fun stuff as I go along just to keep you informed and on your toes. Today, I have the chores of going to the funeral home to sign yet more papers and pay for Eunie’s cremation, going to the dentist for who knows what and having a new will drawn up. Pardon my sarcasm when I say that I have had better days. I have to remind myself that I’ve had much, much worse.

This is probably the most illustrative image of what the The Valley Rattler  is all about – a nostalgic and amusing, if somewhat rocky ride behind a puffing steam engine across some very beautiful Australian countryside:

I didn’t see any kangaroos.

This is the Club Car. The entire railway is operated by volunteers. It is really quite amazing. When you take into account all of the time and skills required to keep it going it’s hard to fathom the dedication required:

All of the money required is raised through the sale of tickets and charitable events.

Tomorrow I will go back to the funeral home to get Eunie’s ashes. In the morning there will be a memorial service at the Anglican Church. Tomorrow afternoon Rich, Jenn and I will bid farewell to Val and thank her for being a rock for us. We will then drive back to Brisbane and stay overnight. On Wednesday, the three of us will fly back to Madang – yet another thing to simultaneously long for and dread.

And here is a view into the heart of the beast:

There is roughly four hours of travel time which consumes about two tonnes of coal.

Here is a shot of the guy who drives the train. On the day we travelled with him he was celebrating his 80th birthday. Happy birthday, Mr. Engineer:

The next few days are going to be very hectic and disturbing. Every time that I think I’m dragging myself out of deep denial I find myself thinking that it simply can’t be true. It’s a bad dream. I got four hours of sleep last night – the worst night yet. I can’t stop the chatter in my head. Last year’s New Year’s Resolution was to teach myself to turn off negative, unproductive thinking – stop trying to think myself out of insoluble problems. By mid-year, I was largely successful. Now that’s all blown away like the sparks from The Rattler’s boiler.

It may be a couple of days before I get a chance to post again. I’ll be back. Hopefully, I’ll feel like writing something less sombre. We’ll see.

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Surrounded by Love

Posted in Mixed Nuts, On Tthe Road on September 6th, 2010 by MadDog
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I can say truthfully that my wife of forty-six years is the most remarkable human that I have ever known. Certainly, my profound love for her biases me. However, when I examine the evidence objectively, I come to the same conclusion.

I have not the time now nor the emotional energy to catalog here all of her merits and accomplishments. Those of you fortunate enough to know her do not need this.

However, I do now want to say that her most remarkable characteristic is her infinite capacity for love. Eunie is so bursting with love that it floods out and saturates all those who come to know her. Her love is unconditional, utterly free of judgement and accompanied by wisdom that allows her to gently guide those who have lost the path and advise those in need of correction without inflicting hurt.

It is only fitting now that some minuscule portion of that love comes back to her. This is a very difficult post for me to write, because my agony is acute. Nevertheless, I can get through it because I am so full of wonder at her composure in this, the twilight of her life. Eunie is a woman of strong faith. She does not fear death.  Yet, she still speaks of getting back to the job which God gave her thirty years ago. I know that I am going to have even more difficult posts to compose in the future, but I shall see if I can get through this one and take the others one at a time.

I cannot view this image without weeping. Eunie is speaking to her daughter-in-law, Tamara, and our granddaughters Pippa and Audrey Rose in Hamilton, Ontario while our son, Hans holds the phone for her. You can see the joy in her expression:

I am so grateful that Hans was able to come for this time. I have needed much support to keep me vertical and functioning.

Eunie loves mystery novels. Here Hans reads to her to give her distraction and comfort:

Hans also reads many of Eunie’s favourite parts of the Bible. It seems strange to speak of blessings at a time such as this, but one of the many that have benefited Eunie is that she is in no pain and is receiving no pain medication. She is very weak and sleeps or drowses much of the time, but her suffering is confined to the discomfort of medical treatments.

Here we see our friends Rich Jones and Carol Dover expressing their love for Eunie:

Rich suddenly put his life on hold for a while and flew from Madang to Brisbane to be with Eunie as a sort of ambassador of love from all those who would want to be with her now to comfort her. Carol flew from Vanuatu for the weekend to give her warmth and comfort to Eunie. I wasn’t able to slow Val Jerram down long enough to get a picture of her with Eunie; she was in and out taking care of business. She has been doing so every day since we arrived at her home in Gympie. How many friends such as her do you have?

Eunie feels comforted when  I can get a chance to lie with her for a while. This post is not about me, but it’s fitting to record this image of two people who have been joined in every way – become as one:

Since we first fell in love our song has been Our Love is Here to Stay.

I’ve mentioned many others who have expressed their love for Eunie over the last few weeks in very tangible ways. If you want a lesson in love, read back a way.

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The Way Things Happen

Posted in Mixed Nuts, On Tthe Road on September 2nd, 2010 by MadDog
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When I reoriented myself this morning after a restless night and a couple of hours of trying to go back to sleep and finally giving up, I was startled to see, after getting my computer going, that it has been only two days since I last posted here. It seems like a week.

First, let me tell you that we are once again amazed by grace that we find ourselves safely and comfortably sheltered, fed and counseled by dear old friends. We are presently staying at the home of Mick and Marg Horwood in Brisbane.

I stumbled out into the garden this morning to take a couple of pictures, because I can’t stand to write without images, even if they have little to do with my subject matter:

Above is an image of promise, fat little strawberries growing warm in the morning sun.

The title today, The Way Things Happen is very ambiguous. I don’t have a lot of time to write, so I’ll have to cram it in quickly, like my breakfast. What follows is a digest of random happenings mostly good, some less so. Don’t expect it to make any sense.

My charger for my Canon G11 has chosen the morning to give up the ghost. Fortunately, I brought my Olympus SP590UZ along and it uses AA batteries. So, when the Canon battery dies, I’ll still have a camera. Okay, bad news, good news.

As I mentioned, we have once again found safe haven to protect and nourish us as we face the current terrors.

Our dear friend Richard Jones showed up yesterday evening from Madang. I am astounded, but not surprised at the love that is being poured out for Eunie. Carol Dover, recently relocated in Vanuatu, is also flying in soon.

This is a plant I found in the Horwood’s garden that seems unlikely – possibly designed by a committee:

You will note a very nice lemon tree in the background.

Our son, Hans, arrives today from Hamilton, Ontario. It’s difficult for me to express my emotions now, because I have to maintain a certain numbness. It will be good to have him here to see his mom and hear with us what the future holds.

Regular readers will know that I don’t throw my religious beliefs in your face. It’s not the purpose of this journal. Ask me, I’ll tell you. However, I must say that it is a strange experience to be wandering in this desert of profound negative feelings, which you can imagine for yourself. What makes it stranger yet, but eases the journey, is the way that every time we get to the point where I am thinking to myself that I simply do not know what to do, some unexpected door opens and I find an oasis of relief. As for myself, I attribute this to God’s mercy.

Eunie and I have always known that we would have to travel such a road at some point. I always hoped that I would simply drop dead some day and Eunie could carry on. She’s so much better equipped to deal with life than I. Now the sequence seems to be in question.

All that I know for certain is that a couple of nights ago we nearly lost her. However, with the help of Val and her doctor’s house call (!), we got her back. I told Val quite frankly that, if she had not been there for us, Eunie would very likely not have survived another day.

That’s about all the rambling that I have time for this morning. Today is going to be interesting.

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I won’t go into the gory medical details, because it’s only the outcome that matters. Three nights ago, after seeing Eunie go downhill rapidly for several days while we were waiting for our appointments in Brisbane, she crashed. She was nearly unresponsive, could not stay awake and would not eat or drink. Val’s private GP came to the house after his office hours and said that we needed to get her into the Gympie Hospital, which we did the next morning with difficulty in Val’s car. He blood pressure was shocking. The anti-inflammatory she had been taking since receiving a stent in her bile duct had caused her to bleed in her stomach. They hooked up many hoses to her and began to rehydrate her. They also gave her two units of blood.

Eunie bounced back eventually after a morning of us hearing discouraging words. Yesterday, she was stable enough to transport her by ambulance to Wesley Hospital in Brisbane. She is scheduled today for an MRI and some other tests. There will be some other kind of scan also.

As of last night, she was in no pain. I expect within a few days to hear some prognosis from the oncologists.

NOTE: I am going to try to answer all of the comments that I am receiving and all of the email messages. Every message is important to me, but I may not be able to keep up with the flood. I’m sure that you will understand this.

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Goodbye Cairns – Hello Gympie

Posted in Mixed Nuts, On Tthe Road on August 28th, 2010 by MadDog
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Well, life’s vicissitudes being what they are, we now find ourselves in Gympie, Australia a couple of months before we planned to be. We had planned to take a long-overdue holiday break in Australia for a few weeks later this year.

We are staying in the home of our long-time friend Val Jerram, whose name has appeared many times here on Madang – Ples Bilonng Mi  before and is going to pop up more or less constantly in the misty future as we get treatment for Eunie’s medical problems. Read to the end of the post for news about that.

Though I should have known that it would be so, if I had had the power to think of some of the less pressing matters other than those which are daily squashing my mind into a sort of pudding-like substance incapable of no higher functions than basic animal instincts, the most intense of which is at the present time stark fear, I would have realised that I was in for yet another treat – it is freezing cold here in Gympie!

Sorry about that last paragraph. I just wanted to see if I’m still capable of writing a reasonably long sentence that is comprehensible. Did I make it?  I can’t tell.

Anyway, having missed several days of posting this month, I was determined to write, if for no other reason than to prove that my fingers still work. I ventured out into the freezing cold on Val’s veranda and got a shot of this blackish bird pecking away at some undoubtedly tasty grub in this bare tree limb:

I took the shot with the Bird Watching setting on my Olympus SP590-UZ. Though there are some aspects of the camera that don’t suit me, the 26X optical zoom is great and it has a wide range of “scene” modes that make it easy to get shots that would require a lot of fiddling with manual controls otherwise.

A few seconds later, I got the above bird’s handsomer cousin:

This place is a crazy house of birds all day long. I suspect that birds are going to be creeping in on the fish soon.

Here is a shot from Val’s veranda of the old Gympie courthouse:

I haven’t seen it up close, but it looks to be an interesting place to visit. This small city is also the home of the  Gympie Muster, the second largest country music festival in Australia.

Braving freezing temperatures this morning, I snapped some snapdragons:

And another one:

And that was the first morning in Gympie.

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Yesterday was scary. Eunie is sick, there’s no doubt of that. She could walk slowly. She put on a brave face, starting out at 05:30 for a cab ride to the Brisbane airport. We had to stop over in Townsville for a couple of hours and then fly to Brisbane, where we were met by Val. Then we had a little over two hours to Gympie in her car.

Eunie’s been resting today. I hope she gets some energy back. Watching any loved one, especially a spouse, go from strong and healthy to desperately ill in a matter of a couple of months is a shocking experience. It’s my first time.

I could do without it.

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